The self-proclaimed Jambo Soldier remains very much up for the battle as he bids to write his name into folklore with the biggest club he has represented.
Clevid Dikamona has swiftly become a fans’ favourite since joining Hearts just over two months ago.
While this is largely down to his committed approach and impressive performances, the Congolese defender has further endeared himself to supporters with his use of the hashtag ‘Jambo Soldier’ on Twitter. In his first newspaper interview as a Hearts player, Dikamona outlined his match-day mentality.
“I’m a defender and I believe when you go on the pitch you have to fight to win every game,” said the 28-year-old.
“You defend your goal but you have 11 players in the other team who are trying to stop you and also want to win the game. For me, you have to fight, you need to be a soldier to win the game. If I win my challenge against the striker and our striker wins his challenge against his defender, we will have more chance to win the game. It’s not a war because it’s a game but you need to feel like a soldier and fight like a soldier. For me, it’s good to be a Jambo soldier.”
After a few promising substitute outings, Dikamona has started each of Hearts’ past five games. Aside from the two heavy defeats by rampant Celtic in the Betfred Cup and the Premiership, he is loving life at Tynecastle and senses a big opportunity for a successful season.
“I have enjoyed it a lot because I have had the opportunity to play with big players, to play in big games against big teams,” said Dikamona. “When you play at Tynecastle, you a feel a spirit that you don’t feel in many places. The fans are so close to the pitch and they push the team to do better in every game. My team-mates have also accepted me quickly and made it easy for me to give everything for the team. When the supporters and your team-mates give you this, it is easy to give back.”
Dikamona feels strongly about the value of having a bond with those who follow his team. “It’s important to have a connection with the supporters,” he said. “When you’re a footballer, you get a salary to play football. It’s our job but it’s also our hobby. I’m happy to play football. The fans work the rest of the week and then pay money to come and see us so for me it’s normal for the players to be close to the supporters. “I know sometimes it is difficult for the supporters when we lose, like Saturday, and they may be angry because we didn’t give enough on the pitch. But all the time we must be close to the supporters because they give so much time to come and support us. We need them, like last week against Hibs, when we almost won the game because they pushed us to give a bit more at the end.”
Dikamona detects a special vibe around Hearts at present and believes it is crucial that he and his table-topping team-mates do everything in their power to capitalise on it. While Celtic are widely expected to kick on and claim their eighth successive Premiership title after their 5-0 win over Hearts took them within a point of the league leaders with a game in hand, Dikamona remains intent on upsetting the applecart.
“The only other club I’ve had a connection with the supporters like this was in France with Sedan. I was close with the supporters and we had a great season,” said Dikamona. “We were in the fourth league and we won promotion. I feel the same thing here. I feel like we can do something special this season. I want to be part of Hearts’ history.
“When you’re from outside, and you look at the Scottish Premiership, every year it’s like Celtic or Rangers have to win, only the big teams. I want to change that. I can’t do that by myself but I feel that this is the right atmosphere and the right moment to do it. We are in a good way at the moment. I know we lost 5-0 on Saturday but we are still at the top of the league and have a chance to be champions at the end. We just have to keep going.
“When I first came here and saw the game against St Mirren (the 4-1 win at the start of September), I saw a group of players who could play football and also be aggressive and fight when the game is hard. This team can do all the things required to beat any team in this league but we just need to believe in ourselves, and also be lucky in terms of not having any more injuries.”
Dikamona has been given his chance largely due to a freakish injury list that has wiped out the team’s two main centre-backs and their two most influential attackers. After spending the bulk of his career to date in France, he has had short spells in England (with Dagenham and Redbridge), Greece, and Israel in recent seasons. The defender has adapted swiftly and impressively to Scottish football and is driven to prove himself on the biggest platform he has had.
“I enjoy Scottish football,” he said. “I was in League Two in England before and I think this is similar although it is maybe a little more technical here because it is obviously the top division. For the kind of player I am, this is a good league for me. I enjoy every day here. But this is the biggest team I have played for in my career so I need to keep improving.”
Dikamona has formed a promising centre-back partnership with 21-year-old Jimmy Dunne since 22-year-old Souttar was sidelined. The 28-year-old believes his two younger colleagues possess remarkable potential. “I’m older than Jimmy and John but when I was a substitute before and I saw both of them play together I was very impressed because they are two great defenders,” he said. “It’s like they play with a lot of experience but they are both still young. It’s a pleasure to play with them and I hope we will have more clean sheets together to help the team.”